Genre: Romance – Suspense
Book Length: Plus Novel
First published January 25, 2007
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All Julia Sullivan wanted was a fresh start in a new place. But cutting ties with the past and starting over can be a difficult thing to do.
After leaving her husband and quitting her job, Julia was emotionally spent. She needed a quiet place to recharge and to think about what she wanted from life. She thought she had found just that when she inherited her aunt’s oceanfront Victorian house in Haven, New Jersey. It wasn’t going to be that simple, however. In addition to her new house being a complete shambles, her charming soon-to-be ex-husband Patrick, whom she discovers she still loves, arrives with the intention of winning her back. To complicate matters further, it seems as if her aunt’s death wasn’t an accident after all. And there’s just something about her new house that seems to interest all sorts of people.
Julia nearly collided with Patrick who stood on the porch, poised to knock. When Julia opened the door, he lowered his hand and tucked it into his pocket. “Hello, Blue.”
She stood looking at him, gripping the edge of the door tightly. “What are you doing here?”
He shrugged. “I’m going back to Chicago, but I didn’t want to leave things like we did the other day. I hope that we can at least be friends. Here, I brought you a house-warming gift.” He thrust a colorful gift bag toward her.
She took the bag from him and turned away, leaving the door open behind her.
Patrick frowned and followed her into the house. It wasn’t hard to see that something had her upset—more than just his showing up unannounced. He wanted to help if he could. If she’d let him.
He stopped in the archway to the living room and stared. He was stunned at the difference in the house since his last visit.
It was a damp and cold outside, but the living room was now bright and cheery. There was a blue velvet chaise in one corner near an art deco floor lamp and next to it a gold brocade loveseat. A Tiffany-style lamp glowed softly on a small marble-topped table near a wing back chair and a fire crackled merrily in the wood stove. A faded Turkish rug sprawled across the wood floor. Lace curtains on the tall windows kept out the gloom of the March sky.
He followed Julia back to the kitchen and found her leaning against the counter, looking out of the window over the sink. She’d set the bag on the counter beside her, untouched.
He wanted to go to her and hold her but feared what her reaction might be. Instead, he stopped near the kitchen table, trying to decide what to do next. He looked down and saw the estimate the contractor left her.
No wonder she was upset.
He had no idea how much money her aunt had left her, but he guessed it wasn’t much based on the way the house had been kept and by her reaction to the builder’s estimate.
Julia stood looking out at the sky. She was doing some deep breathing exercises and thinking. Trying to regain her calm.
The contractor’s estimate was nothing to lose hope over, she assured herself. She had known that starting her life over here, in this strange place, was going to be difficult.
She had to trust herself, trust that she would make it. She would find a way to support herself. She would resume her marketing career if she had to. She was close enough to New York to commute if need be and her former boss had assured her of a glowing reference if she should need one.
Her house needed a roof. The floors needed refinishing and the walls needed a paint job, inside and out—there were just too many things to mention. She would do everything, just not all at once. It would take some time. This was her house now and she wasn’t going to give it up.
Dealing with Patrick was a different story though. She found it difficult to remain calm when she looked into the warm golden brown of his eyes. She took one last deep breath to steel herself before turning to face him.
He stood near the kitchen table with a paper in his hand. She walked closer. “What’s that?”
He pushed it across the table to her. “Is this what has you so upset?”
“It’s nothing for you to worry about.”
He grabbed her hands in his. “Let me help you. Please.”
She looked up at him. His touch felt so good. She hadn’t realized how much she needed human contact, to be held and reassured, but she couldn’t seek solace from Patrick. She had to maintain her distance. She squeezed his hands and pulled away.
“I don’t need your money, Patrick. I’ll be fine.”
“I wasn’t talking about money.”
She shook her head. “Then I don’t understand. How can you help me?”
“Let me do the roof for you.”
She gaped at him in surprise. “What? You?”
“Why do you look so skeptical?” he asked. “Dad is a contractor, you know and I worked with him every summer during college. I’ve done lots of roofing.”
“It’s not that,” she stammered, “what about your job? You have to go back to Chicago.”
“I took a leave of absence,” he answered. “So, you see, I’m at your disposal.”
She looked away, trying to regain her equilibrium. This was all happening too fast. She needed to have the roof fixed but to have Patrick do it?
“Come on, Blue, let me help you this one last time. You’ve made your feelings clear. I’ve signed the divorce papers. I promise that I won’t pressure you for anything more.”
That was true enough. He had signed the papers. She looked him in the eye. He looked sincere. And she really did need that roof done.
“I don’t know. I’m sure you’ll be sorry—it’s a big job,” she said, trying to give him an out.
“I like a challenge,” he responded with a confident smile.
She wished she felt as confident as he looked. Still, it might be the perfect solution to her problem.
“Okay,” she answered slowly, “if you’re sure. Thank you for offering.”
He grinned at her. “I’ll go take a look at it right now.”
She shook her head as she followed him. She could see he was pleased and against her better judgment she felt a spark of excitement too.
It’s just the roof, she reminded herself. Nothing more. He’ll be gone before you know it.